What happens when an immovable force meets an unstoppable object? The Death of Superman, that’s what.
I remember where I was when I heard that Superman was dead. I was in my local comic shop, which is now dead itself (Fs in the chat for Nerd Central).
I remember it very clearly because it was happening at the time I was starting to take comic collecting (not reading, collecting) seriously.
I was sure that it would be a good financial investment to buy the comic in which he died – what I wasn’t expecting was that the whole storyline would be a great emotional investment for me as well.
Join me as I take you through the emotional roller coaster which is ‘The Death of Superman’.
First though: This wasn’t technically the first time Superman died, but it was the first time he wasn’t resurrected by the end of a comic he died in.
How did the Death of Superman happen?
Doomsday killed him.
OH COME ON, THAT TELLS ME NOTHING!
Once upon a time there was a test-tube baby born in Krypton.
And no, I’m not going to recount Superman’s entire life story – I’m talking about Doomsday, you see. Or The Ultimate, as he was known back then.
On prehistoric Krypton, there was an alien scientist who made a baby in a lab because the planet Kyrpton apparently hates biological birth and actively works against it.
The scientist did this because he wanted to create ‘the ultimate lifeform’. How does that work? Let’s see.
The scientist would release the baby to the hostile planet, and then the baby would, shall we say, ‘fail to survive’ for whatever reason: inhospitable environment, wild animals, and so on.
The – uh – ‘genetic remains of the experiment’ (yes I’m uncomfortable too but this is how the story goes) were then collected and used to clone another baby.
Rinse and repeat for a very very long time and blammo – you’ve got a being that can withstand almost anything by evolving past it and auto-resurrecting itself. He also evolves to become a living solar battery. No need to eat when you can absorb sunlight, right? All you plants out there, you know what I’m talking about.
Side note: Evolution doesn’t actually work like that, because comics are weird.
Anyway, he was finally ‘the ultimate lifeform’ that the scientist originally wanted to create it. Eventually, The Ultimate (because having a stupid name doesn’t cause death and therefore cannot be evolved against) became self-aware.
It won’t surprise anyone to find out that The Ultimate eventually killed the scientist and found a way off-world. It also won’t surprise anyone to find out that The Ultimate had a major hate-on for Kryptonians. This is possibly a nod to the fact that judging an entire race by one persons actions is how villains behave – SYMBOLISM!
He wipes out various civilisations and is then finally bound in a metal box, left to float around the universe because that’s totally a responsible way to deal with a world-destroying monster.
Hey, does this Death of Superman article actually have anything about the Death of Superman in it?
Thousands of years later, The Ultimate makes his way to Earth.
He breaks out of his bonds (apart from one of his arms which is still bound behind his back) and his metal prison, and then takes out most of the Justice League in mere minutes.
Booster Gold (one of the lesser-known Justice League members) then notices that The Ultimate literally took out most of the Justice League heavy hitters with one hand tied behind his back, and comments that it’s the ‘…arrival of Doomsday’.
Stripped of his terrible name, Doomsday instantly becomes a much more terrifying character.
Doomsday notices a billboard advertising a wrestling match in Metropolis and makes his way there. Sure, DC tried to retcon it so that he was actually searching for Superman (because Doomsday is racist against Kryptonians) but that’s not what happened. I think the real lesson here was that ‘watching wrestling’ is a far better activity than ‘being a racist’, but who knows? Comics are weird.
A Clash of the Titans Leads to the Death of Superman
Superman soon notices Doomsday’s rampage across America, and realises he’s heading for Metropolis. Supes does whatever he can to stop Doomsday, but the best he can do it slow him down.
This is not ideal for Superman, because Superman doesn’t want Doomsday to destroy Metropolis. He also doesn’t want to fight Doomsday in Metropolis because he knows that their superhuman combat might also destroy the city.
Doomsday does make his way to Metropolis. He realises that Superman is protecting it, and stops toying with Superman and starts actually fighting him.
After hours of fighting, the evenly-matched combatants are running out of energy.
Both of them simultaneously give the other the most powerful double-fisted haymaker they can. The shockwave from this destroys the immediate area, including all of the buildings.
And when the dust settles…well, you’ve read the title to this article, and also the section heading, and you knew it was coming the whole time.
The Death of Superman was legitimately shocking
When I originally read this comic, I still didn’t expect it to happen. I figured the whole thing was just an industry in-joke that comic book sellers were making, similar to how Australians sometimes pretend that Dropbears don’t exist in order to confuse those new to the country.
But there it was, in print, on the final pages of the comic I’d just bought.
I cannot stress this enough but back then it was a huge shock to many of us fans.
This was back in a time when spoilers were taken a little more seriously, before movie trailers were basically just the short film version of the film they’re advertising. There weren’t ten million internet articles about it, months in advance, posted all over social media.
Superman obviously came back. How did that happen, you might ask?
You can wait 3 months to find out, like I had to.
RELAX – I’m joking. You can follow the rest of the story in this article.
What are your thoughts about this? Were you around at the time? Are you a new fan and hadn’t heard anything about this story before? Let us know in the comments!